Growing your own vegetables and housing a coop of chickens in the backyard might qualify you as a bonafied urban farmer, but there's some knowledge you can only get from the ladies and lads that till soil for a living. It's their trade secrets, those down and dirty techniques that make all the difference between growing food for fun and being able to do it for a living.
And while you may not want to hang up that coat and tie in favor of a straw hat and overalls, chances are we could all learn a lot from some well-known local farmers -- think Dave "the Egg Man" Jordan and Phoenix's tomato and premium veggie guru, Carl Seacat. Well, good news: that opportunity has come.
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The Real Farmers Teaching Real Techniques classes kicked off last Sunday with Carl Seacat teaching Tomatoes 101: Techniques in Planting Heirloom Tomatoes.
"I call it let's be tomato growers," Seacat says. "My general comment is most people stick a plant in the ground and hope for the best."
His next class on Sunday, Feb. 24, is Tomatoes 102: Maintaining Varieties for Desert Climates will be more of a general vegetable growing course, with dos and don'ts for growing "a litany of vegetables" including beets, lettuces, carrots, tomatoes and artichokes.
Seacat will also be selling plants from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and says the $18 class should run about one hour.
On Sunday, March 3 Maya Dailey of Maya's Farm will lead a cooking course.
Farther out on the horizon is a hands-on evisceration class with Dave Jordan on Sunday, March 10. Jordan says the course will cover everything from raising the animals through the killing process -- birds will be provided. Jordan will teach the hand-plucking and evisceration, giving attendees a chance to try out the techniques on their own after watching firsthand.
It won't be an experience for the faint of heart and Jordan says attendees should come prepared for blood, guts and the death of quite of a few chickens.
He estimates that the $50 course will run between three and three and a half hours.
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Last in the line-up (so far) will be a pair of classes with Sally LaPlace that will cover soil fertility and crop management.
More classes will be added in future so stayed tuned for more information.